11 January 2017
On October 9, 2016, 200 armed attackers from the Aqa Mul Mujahidin — an organisation with links to the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) — carried out a surprise attack on Myanmar police at the Maungdaw border, killing nine police officers. The attackers were from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine (Arakan) State. They seized weapons, ammunition, bayonets, and magazines. According to the Myanmar government, the attackers received funding and support from foreign terrorist organisations.
Since the attacks in October heavy-handed counter-insurgency campaigns have been implemented with reports emerging of serious human rights abuses. Myanmar soldiers have been accused of killing and raping Rohingya, and burning their villages, but the government has denied these allegations. The state media has put the death toll at almost 100 people, although advocacy groups claim that more have been killed. More than 20,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in the past two months.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship and viewed by the Myanmar government as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Tens of thousands of internally displaced Rohingya, following ethnic violence in 2012, live in decrepit camps where travel is restricted. Following regional and international protests, an emergency Asean meeting was held in early December to discuss the crisis.
The plight of the Rohingya minority has attracted the attention of regional and international extremist and terrorist groups.
The so-called Islamic State (IS), or Daesh, has expressed its intention to target Myanmar via Bangladesh. In the fourteenth issue of its propaganda magazine Dabiq, a Bangladeshi jihadist called on others to join him to help the oppressed Rohingya. Aung San Suu Kyi was also singled out by Daesh as a possible target in a ‘kill list’ sent to Malaysian police in August. In November 2016, Indonesian police thwarted an attempt by a local pro-Daesh extremist group to carry out a bombing attack on the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta.
… This article was written by Iftekharul Bashar, an Associate Research Fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Nanyang Technological University. It first appeared on East Asia Forum under a Creative Commons license and is reproduced here with its permission.
This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2016 in review and the year ahead.
ICPVTR / Online
Last updated on 13/01/2017